Friday, 23 November 2012

Late Night Public Transport

And here we go again. A French woman (or, according to UK rag the Daily Mail, a group of four French girls) was threatened with violence and insults on a Melbourne bus late at night because she/they started singing in French.

A Racist Attack (the French are apparently a race). A Sexist Attack (it involved women). Scandalous. Outrageous. Terrifying. Moral outrage across the globe.

Most of the moral outrage, however, seems to becoming from people who don't ever use public transport in a large city, especially at night.

Based on my own happy experiences in a number of large cities here and abroad (including Paris), the kind of people who take public transport at night - on, say, a route that runs through a poor and crime-ridden series of suburbs in Melbourne's south-east - are not really the kind of people you might also meet on a Sunday morning, enjoying their double-decaf frappiatocino at a nice cafe near a select row of terrace housing.

They are the kind of people who threaten you with box-cutters and talk about Seeing You Next Tuesday. They can't afford taxis, and they are very often drunk. Not amusing-drunk on good champagne, but nasty-drunk on something like antifreeze. Sometimes they're also on drugs, or off their meds. Sometimes they wear woolly hats and like to stare at you without blinking. Sometimes they're too busy scratching or scrawling tags all over the bus or train windows to notice you at all, and this is usually a good thing.

So when someone decides to start singing in French, and they don't like it, they will tell her to shut up, often in a rude and aggressive way.

If she then decides to continue singing, only louder, they will escalate their abuse.

As yet, I'm still waiting to hear an explanation of why anyone would be singing in French on a bus late at night, running on the Frankston route through Melbourne's poor, crime-ridden south-east, loud enough for everyone to hear in the first place. Now there's the real story.

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